Name institution Unit
Government’seffort to monitor the internet in the guise of fighting terrorism isa violation of human rights.
Under ademocratic political system, the government is mandated by the peopleto protect the rights of the people through a free and fair election.These rights are inalienable from the person and are God given. Thefreedom of expression and association are among these basic humanrights. These rights are best associated with the right to privacywhich is infringed by any internet monitoring activities as proposedby the federal government. The Patriot Act and the proposed CyberIntelligence Sharing and Protection Act pose a direct threat to theserights and thus must be resisted by all who understand the tenets andvalues of democracy and civil liberties.
Point 1:Uncensored access to the internet in this information age equates toright of association and privacy which is supported by freedom ofexpression and association. Any move by the government to monitorthe internet or control it equates to violating these basic humanrights. In the recent past, it was revealed that the NSA had beenmonitoring international phone calls of special interest people inthe war against terrorism. This means that the government through theNSA has been violating the basic human rights of not only Americansbit also foreigners (McFarland, 2014). In fact, one of the key globalfigures who was being monitored by the NSA was the German ChancellorAngela Merkel. How the leader of another democratic country, whichhappens to be American’s ally in Europe, was perceived as a specialinterest person related to terrorism does not add up. In response,Merkel indicated that monitoring of phone calls and the internet forsecurity purposes “produces not more but less security”(Oltermann 2014). Furthermore, as a signatory to the internationallaw, the US government is bound to respect human rights including theright of privacy. The treaty states
By becoming parties to international treaties, States assumeobligations and duties under international law to respect, to protectand to fulfill human rights. The obligation to respect means thatStates must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoymentof human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protectindividuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation tofulfill means that States must take positive action to facilitate theenjoyment of basic human rights (International Human Rights Law,2014).
Point 2.Government interference will discourage internet use and cut down onthe benefits gained from internet use. In one of theearlier studies conducted at the turn of the millennium to assess theeffect of privacy concerns in internet usage, Udo (2001) noted thatdue to the risk of third parties accessing private information,ecommerce and other online based activities were being affectednegatively. In this context, “privacy refers to the rights ofindividuals and organizations to determine for themselves when, how,and to what extent information about them is to be transmitted toothers” (Udo, p. 165). These fears that existed over decade ago arebeing reignited today as the government seeks to have more access toprivate information held by private organizations such as credit cardcompanies. The government is even going further to make this processlegal through the Patriot Act and the proposed Cyber IntelligenceSharing and Protection Act. The cyber intelligence act compelsprivate organizations such as banks and insurers, and credit cardcompanies to share client information with the government. A poll byGallup shows that majority (53%) of Americans are opposed to anysurveillance programs by NSA after the Snowden incidence (Newport,2014). This shows that the public has grown distrustful of itsgovernment and as a result the government mandate in protecting therights of individuals is greatly undermined (Page, 2014).
Point 3: Online monitoring will open opportunities to theviolation of other human rights. This is most likely to affectfreedom of expression and freedom of association and stabilize socialand cultural order. The recent situation involving Edwards Snowden, agovernment employee who managed to literally steal governmentinformation for private use and exposed the NSA to show thevulnerability of private data being accessed by other people andbeing used for the wrong purposes. That incident alone shows that thegovernment cannot be trusted with private information of itscitizens. This implies that private information falling on the wrongcould make them targets of online harassment or even actual theft oridentify theft, something that affects internet use greatly (Solove,2014). In July 2013, the Hackers Anonymous group reported it hadhacked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) servers andthreatens to publicize details of its employees including emails andpasswords. Such incidences discourage the use of the internet as thepublic learns that their private information is not safe with thegovernment. In fact President Obama himself acknowledges that how thegovernment handled this surveillance issue would predict how otherhuman rights issues are handled compared to other countries. He said,
No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillanceprograms, or Russia to take the privacy concerns of citizens intoaccount. But let us remember that we are held to a different standardprecisely because we have been at the forefront in defending personalprivacy and human dignity (Pizzi, 2014).
China, NorthKorea are among the countries that are known for strict internetsurveillance and violation of human rights. The proposed surveillanceis one sure of going the North Korea, something that we cannot affordas a country that models democracy.
Point 4.Monitoring the internet is not effective in fighting terrorism.Tudge and Graaf (2006) note that software programs such as the onesbeing used for monitoring purpose cannot fight terrorism for a numberof reasons. One of them is that terrorists are aware that theinternet is being monitored hence they will use coded messages orresult to other means of communication. Secondly, software programsas not comparable to well-trained individuals deployed in fightingterrorists. She notes a case in point where Israel airportauthorities have discarded the electronic scanning systems in favorof well-trained security check personnel. She believes that thesuggested program, will just college huge chunks of data but willnever identify the real terrorist issues. This is because the systemscan be manipulated by terrorism to send wrong signals which beats itspurpose.
Questions toask opponents
As the custodianof human rights, do you think government should set the example inrespecting human rights?
Do you thinkfighting terrorism and cyber terrorism by monitoring and controllingthe internet will make Americans feel safer?
Questionslikely to be asked.
Can youcompare national security to national security?
No, I do notargue that individual privacy is more important than nationalsecurity. It is necessary that the government devices mechanisms thatwill protect human rights and also national security. Nonetheless,human right should come in first based on the fact that the state isjust an aggregation of the people meaning that without individualrights being respected, a state cannot stand. Therefore, by thegovernment violating the rights of an individual in the guise ofprotecting the persona and the state, it beats the logic.
Question 2.Corporations such as Google, Verizon, Citibank among other companiesthat collect confidential data from their clients use personal dateto profile their clients. I am assuming you also know that evenGoogle checks your browsing history and chooses the advert to displayto you through the word sense program. Do you even feel violated atall by such and how different is from the NSA program that it isbeing heavily criticized?
Individuals havethe right to social disclosure. Most of these provisions in gatheringprivate data on usage of products and services are covered underterms and conditions which many people do not read to understand.There not such agreements made between individuals and thegovernment. Therefore, government has not right to such informationat all.
Do you feelmore violated when it is the government monitoring the internet asopposed to private players?
Yes. This isbecause for other entities such as my health insurance of credit cardcompany, I willingly chose to share such information. Socialdisclosure is a very important aspect in social relations as itdetermines the amount of information you can disclose to anotherparty depending time, level of trust among others. I have not enteredand I have not entered into an agreement with the government abouttracking my data for a number of reasons. Just because this provisionis provided for in the constitution does not make is legal. The onlythe government is doing is institutionalizing an illegality though anact of congress. President Obama himself
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